A Brief History
On April 7, 30 AD, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem and died on that same day. Or did He?
The exact date of the crucifixion and death of Christ has been debated as long as there have been followers of Christianity. Tradition used to claim 33 AD as the year of the death of Jesus, but this year does not reconcile with the timing of the death of Herod the Great, which is historically known, placing the death of Jesus in 30 AD instead of 33 AD. This also means the birth of Christ was in the year 4 BC, unlike the former assumption that placed His birth in 1 AD.
Confused yet? These dates are extremely important to many Christians and multiple scholars have studied historical events associated with the birth and the death of Jesus Christ in order to determine the most likely dates of both of those events. Various scholars come up with April 3, 30 or 33 AD as the date of the Crucifixion, while April 6 and April 7 also have their proponents. If you are a Christian, are the exact dates important to you?
As far as the birth of Christ, it is a virtual certainty that the first Christmas was not on December 25. Among other things, shepherds were not “in the field” in December, and the much discussed census that was the cause of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem in the first place did not exist, either. (For one thing, a Roman ordered census would never take place in December.) Some Biblical scholars estimate the birth of Jesus to have occurred during September or another date in the Fall.
Complicating the effort to determine the historical accuracy of the story of Jesus Christ is the Bible itself, with contradictions found in the Gospels, accounts that were written decades after the death of Christ by people who were not companions of Jesus and did not witness the events described.
The extreme difficulty in “proving” aspects of any religion based on the historical record is common. The Quran was written after the death of Muhammad, with the final form taking about 20 years to compile from scattered accounts. During Muhammad’s life, the Quran was an oral tradition only, and shortly after the death of Muhammad most of the people who had memorized the Quran were killed in battle, complicating the task of combining the accounts into one written volume. Despite the story of Jews being held in slavery in Egypt as a fundamental part of the Book of Exodus in the Bible, there is no historical evidence at all that indicates Jews were ever held in slavery in Egypt! The thought by historians is, if Jews were held as slaves and up and left, there would be some kind of account of these events in the Egyptian records, and there is not. Nor is there any archaeological evidence to support this story.
The compelling urge to try to “prove” Biblical accounts are perhaps best illustrated by the enormous effort and words written about finding Noah’s Ark. (No evidence of a world-wide flood at the appropriate time exists, either.) Mormon archaeologists have been severely disappointed by finding no evidence that Jesus or any Jews had lived in North America long ago, either.
Question for students (and subscribers): Is it worth the effort to try to prove the stories of one’s religion? Should physical or historical proof be necessary to justify faith in a religion? Are the historical accounts and evidence actually lies and misinformation? Please share your thoughts on these subjects with your fellow readers in the comments section below this article, and please share any further information you can to shed light upon these mysteries.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Rutledge, Fleming. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. Eerdmans, 2017.
Zugibe, Frederick T. The Crucifixion of Jesus, Completely Revised and Expanded: A Forensic Inquiry. M. Evans & Company, 2005.